The Progression of Chemical Dependency: The Three Stages of Alcoholism and Drug Addiction
Dear Dr. Steve:
My husband has
been drinking off and on for 10 years yet he doesn't think he has a problem. He tells me
that he can quit any time he wants and, to his credit, he often times does quit for short
periods of time. However, I notice that whenever he quits drinking, his marijuana use
increases. I cant seem to get through to him. Any time I try to talk to him about it
he tells me to get off his backthis is America and Ill do whatever I
want to do. He insists that he doesnt have a problemthat Im the
one with the problem. Then he starts comparing how little he drinks compared to how much
my father drinks, which leaves me speechless. He points out that hes held the same
job for the last eleven years, pays all the bills on time, and never lets me forget how it
is he who does all the work around the house. Does my husband have a problem with alcohol?
Should I be concerned about how much of our lives seem to be consumed by his drinking, our
lying to others and ourselves about his drinking, our fighting about his drinking, and our
ignoring each other because of his drinking?
should be concerned. Your letter raises plenty of red flags about your husbands
relationship with alcohol and other drugs. His rationalizations about his use of alcohol
and other drugs are a red flag as well. It is very common for somebody who is in denial
about their alcohol and other drug use to lament that I cant be an alcoholic
I cant be an alcoholic because I am functioning in my day-to-day life and
alcoholics are hungry, homeless, and desperate.
cant be an alcoholic because I have a job and alcoholics cant hold a job.
cant be an alcoholic because I have a family and an alcoholic loses his family.
cant be an alcoholic because I have my health and alcoholics have cirrhosis of the
cant be an alcoholic because I only drink beer and alcoholics drink hard liquor.
can be an alcoholic because I never drink before dinner-time and alcoholics drink
from sunrise to sunset.
cant be an alcoholic because I only drink on the weekends and alcoholics drink 24/7.
cant be an alcoholic because I can quit any time I want and an alcoholic cant
quit at all.
the refrain goes, a person convinces themselves of what theyre not because of the
misconceptions they have of who a person is that abuses and becomes dependent on alcohol
and other drugs. But the truth is that alcohol and other drug abusers come from all walks
of lifethe rich and the famous, the down and outers, the very intelligent and those
who are not so smart, those who are as kind as can be and those who are mean and
Alcoholism and drug addiction have nothing to do with what one drinks, how much one
drinks, when one drinks, when one doesnt drink, what kind of job one has, how much
ones family may or may not love them. Alcoholism and drug addiction are equal
opportunity diseases. One aspect of the diseases of alcoholism and drug addiction is that
they are progressive diseases. This means that there is a beginning, middle, and last
stage of this disease. Anyone can diagnose somebody who is in the last stage of the
disease of alcoholism and/or drug addiction. The person has been all but ruined
emotionally, financially, and spiritually. But there is an early stage and a middle stage
of the diseases of alcoholism and drug addictions that are not as obvious to detect.
Symptoms of each stage are listed below.
Early stages: Social Drinking
to calm nerves.
Increase in alcohol tolerance.
Desire to continue drinking when others stop.
Uncomfortable in a situation where there is no alcohol.
Relief drinking commences.
Occasional memory lapses after heavy drinking.
Preoccupation with alcohol (thinking about the next drink).
Secret irritation when your drinking is discussed.
stage: Loss of Control Phase
Lying about drinking.
Increasing frequency of relief drinking.
Hiding drinking and/or sneaking drinks.
Increasing dependence on alcohol.
Drinking bolstered with excuses.
Feeling guilty about drinking.
Increased memory blackouts.
Tremors and early morning drinks.
Promises and resolutions fail repeatedly.
Grandiose and aggressive behavior.
Loss of other interests.
Unable to discuss problems.
Family, work, and money problems.
Neglect of food/controlled drinking fails.
Family and friends avoided.
Drinking alone and secretly.
Possible job loss.
Stage: The person now thinks that
responsibilities interfere with
Radical deterioration of family relationships.
Physical and moral deterioration.
Loss of will power
Onset of lengthy drunks.
Urgent need for morning drinks.
Geographical escape attempted.
Impaired thinking and memory loss.
Loss of family.
Decrease in alcohol tolerance.
Successive lengthy drunks.
Medical and/or psychiatric hospitalizations.
Unable to initiate action.
Unable to work.
Obsession with drinking.
All alibis exhausted.
Complete abandonment: I dont care.
of this symptom checklist is that people who suffer from the disease of alcoholism and
drug addiction dont start deteriorating until they reach the final stage of their
disease. Until that point in the progression of the disease there are other signs and
symptoms of the disease that are less obvious, more subtle and harder to detect. However
one can be chemically dependent based upon the presence of these less obvious symptoms.
how to prevent and recover from chemical dependency as well as the aftereffects of
chemical dependency on you and your family. Read Dr. Frischs, Psy.D. series of
Insanity to Serenity.
1.) Alcoholism and drug addiction are diseases.
2.) Denial prevents an individual from acknowledging that they have the disease.
3.) These are progressive diseases that have a beginning stage, middle stage, and a late
4.) Each stage has identifiable symptoms.
5.) An individual can get help for themselves before their disease progressives to the
late stages of the disease.